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Report on Persecution of Iranian Christians in 2008

ICC Note

“In his first months in office the President gave a speech before high-level officials including provincial governors. In that speech the President stated that Christianity has to be crushed. He added, ‘I will stop Christianity in Iran .’

01/18/2009 Iran (FCNN)-The government has intensified its religious focus. Over the past three years, concerns have been raised over what some call Ahamadinejad government’s religious cleansing. Suppression of religious minorities is one aspect of human rights abuses in Iran .

The large community of Persian-speaking Christians is the largest Christian group within Iran . In the past two years the religious government of Iran threatened and arrested new Christian converts and Iranian Christians who hold church services in their homes. New converts are subject to physical and mental abuse while detained. They spend days, or sometimes weeks, in solitary confinement. These individuals often have to post excessive bail, and on the condition that they will face arrests if they hold religious services or talk about their faith with others.

“The government has intensified its religious focus. Over the past three years, concerns have been raised over what some call Ahamadinejad government’s religious cleansing. Suppression of religious minorities is one aspect of human rights abuses in Iran .”

In the report, the Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency, states, “In his first months in office the President gave a speech before high-level officials including provincial governors. In that speech the President stated that Christianity has to be crushed. He added, ‘I will stop Christianity in Iran .’

The Christian Post, which publishes news and reports about Christian international issues, has ranked Iran the third worst country for Christians. The International Commission on Religious Freedom, which is an independent institution based in the United States , has expressed “deep concerns” over the actions of the Islamic Republic.

One of the most important news of 2008 was the passing of the “Islamic Punitive Code Bill” on September 9th, 2008 by the Iranian parliament.

According to Iranian judiciary officials section 225 of this bill has been drafted based on six verses of the Quran along with sayings and traditions of Muhammad and Shiite Imams and fatwas by Shiite clerics. This section recognizes two forms of apostasy; one is called “national” apostasy, and the other is named “innate” apostasy. Male apostates are to be punished by death, and female apostates are to serve life sentences.

It should be noted that the rotational president of the European Union has stated, “Section 225 of this bill clearly violates Iran ’s obligations under international human rights conventions. The presidency of the European Union asks Iranian officials in both the government and in the parliament to modify the text of this bill in order to respect Iran ’s international obligations.”

So far many individuals have been killed or put under arrest because of apostasy. Some face the death penalty following being indicted. Human Rights organizations have condemned the Iranian government for these actions.

A Report on Persecution of Christians in Iran in 2008:

January 15th, Tehran : An Iranian Christian named Mohammad A., who had sought asylum in the Netherlands and Norway , was denied asylum by both countries. Norwegian police sent him and his family back to Iran . He was arrested by security forces in the Tehran airport upon his return. Reports indicate that he has been severely tortured, and that he has sustained serious back injury. He has been released by posting his brother’s home deed as bail.

April 18th, Amol, Mazandaran: A Christian convert and his pregnant wife were arrested by the police. The wife was released after three days in jail. Her husband, however, remained in prison until May. He was finally released upon posting their home deed as bail. He has been told that his file is still open and that he can be summoned to court at anytime.

May 11th, Shiraz : The families of two Christian converts were arrested when they were leaving for vacation from Shiraz international airport. Homayoun Gholamzadeh and Amirhossein Anari, along with their spouses, Fariba and Fatemeh, were arrested at the airport and taken to prison. They were all interrogated about their faith and their church membership. The women were released on the same day. Mr. Anari and Mr. Gholamzadeh were kept in jail until May 14th and May 22nd respectively. On May 22nd, Alaedin Hossein, his wife and their three kids were arrested and their house was searched. His computed and his books were confiscated. Except for their eldest son Mojtaba Hossein, they were all released. Mojtaba Hossein was eventually released on June 3rd by posting a $20,000 bail.

May 15th, Shiraz : Mahmud Matin Azad and Arash Basirat (Bandari) and a number of other Christians were arrested by Ministry of Intelligence agents in a place called Roya Park . These two Christian converts face indictments for apostasy issues by the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz.

May 31st, Tehran: Mohsen Namvar, a home-service church leader, was arrested by security forces and charged with apostasy, converting to Christianity and inviting Muslims to convert to Christianity. He has been severely tortured. This Iranian Christian was released on bail after four weeks of being held by security forces. He was released for medical reasons, and his bail was set at $43,000. He was not given a receipt for the bail his family had posted, and their request for such a receipt was ridiculed. Once he was released on bail, he, along with his family, left Iran and sought asylum.

June 3rd, Tehran : Tina Rad and Makan Arya were arrested by security forces for holding Bible study sessions for Muslims in an east Tehran neighborhood. They were charged with “actions against Islam”, and they were interrogated. During their detention both were severely beaten. They were also told that they would lose the custody of their four-year-old daughter. They were forced to post a $50,000 bail.

July 12th, Kerman : Mohsen Radfar, a Christian convert, was arrested by the security forces while driving to Tehran from Kerman . On the same day, twelve other Christians, who were going to a conference, were arrested in the airport. Their homes were searched, and they were released later that day.

July 27th, Malekshahr, Isfahan : A number of Christians were arrested while conducting a church service in a private home. The group included six women, eight men and two children. An elderly couple, who hosted the event, were severely beaten by the plainclothes officers. Abbas Miri, 70, died in a hospital in Isfahan on July 30th due to the injuries he sustained that night. His wife, Sakineh, died on August 3rd as a result of stress she suffered after her husband’s death. It has been reported that the plainclothes officers were especially enraged because Abbas had made the Hajj pilgrimage and he had served at the war front during the Iran-Iraq war. His conversion to Christianity and the fact that he had started a church at his home has reportedly been unacceptable by the authorities.

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